It's been a long road back to being back in Everton's first-team plans for Ramiro Funes Mori after almost a year out with a knee injury.

The Argentina international has spent the past 11 months recuperating from a cruciate ligament injury sustained whilst on duty with his homeland last March, and is on the verge of finally ending his time out of the senior picture.

It's a return which presents a golden opportunity for Funes Mori too, given how porous the Toffees' backline has been all season.


And, coupled with the unfortunate injury sustained by Eliaquim Mangala potentially ruling the on-loan Manchester City defender out for the season, the 26-year-old needs to grasp this opportunity with both hands.

Despite Everton's abject displays at the back this term, competition for places at centre-half is fierce under Blues boss Sam Allardyce.

Michael Keane, Ashley Williams, Phil Jagielka and Mason Holgate are all available to the 63-year-old as he plots a way to rediscover the resilience Everton showed in his early weeks in charge.

The ex-Crystal Palace and England gaffer has made mention of picking a settled side for the remainder of the campaign as he seeks a way to end the leaky nature of his team's rearguard - and Funes Mori couldn't have timed his recovery from his long-term knee problem better.

The former River Plate star won't be able to rest on his laurels given that he's vying for one of two spots alongside his fellow centre-backs, but given that quartet's form since August he has as good a chance as anyone else of being selected.

Both Jagielka and Williams have shown signs of decline this campaign as their ages catch up to them, Holgate is still a young man learning his trade in that position and Keane has been hit and miss during his maiden season at Goodison Park.

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Of course, it would be remiss of Allardyce to chuck Funes Mori in at the deep end and cause him an injury setback as soon as he is ready to play.

It will also be something of a negative - how that's worked out as one is anyone's guess - among small sections of Evertonians to see Funes Mori available again, as some see him as a defensive liability.

Funes Mori deserves a chance like anyone else, however, especially when Everton's defenders haven't produced the goods when picked by Allardyce or his predecessors Ronald Koeman or David Unsworth.

With 11 games left of 2017/18, Funes Mori could be the man to truly benefit from Everton's lack of resoluteness at the back.